Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mental Health Day... I can has?

I'd love to say that I'm not posting a real post this weekend because I'm at the shore. I'd love to say that I'm just too busy having an awesome time enjoying this gorgeous weekend with my sweetie and friends. I'd love to say that I'm having a long, relaxing holiday weekend to help pull myself together, and get out of the funk that I've been in all week. But it's not true. I'm stuck working my retail job all weekend. RETAIL! ALL HOLIDAY WEEKEND!! I really hope you guys are having a much better weekend than me, so that I can live vicariously through you. 

So while I'm desperately waiting for my day off on Wednesday, a new channel is launching this weekend: The Cooking Channel. I've seen the ads on Food Network, and I've gotta say, I'm pretty excited about it. (Listen, I know I'm a foodie dork, so you can stop judging me now.)  They've got the line up for the launch on their site.

Things that excite me about this: 
1. It appears they have a baking show. 
2. From the little research I've done, it looks like they're vegetarian and vegan friendly, and are working on getting a vegan show.
3. There's whole shows dedicated to ethnic foods, and booze. 
4. There's a picture of Julia Child in that promo. Reruns of the French Chef? YES PLEASE!

Now, I watch a lot of food network, but I've been saying for awhile that there's some things that seem to be missing from their line-up, and it appears the Cooking Channel will be filling all those gaps and then some (see numbers 1-3). 

Also, Cooking Channel, if you're looking for someone to host a vegan baking show, I'm ready, willing, and available. I'm also adorable, well-spoken, and have a background in theater. Just sayin...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Look what I made!

Guys, I've gotta be honest. This week's been a total bitch so far. And I just can't seem to get it together. And one quick look at what my friends are saying via the major social media outlets tells me that almost everyone I know is also having a crap week. It makes me wonder, is this what life is like in a post-Lost world? (Cue creepy trombones). 
If I could get it together, I've got lots of stuff to tell you about: a pilgrimage to Vegan Treats, another edition of Snackin' in Scranton, and a mango jam/filling I made that's all-caps DELICIOUS. 
But this took up three days of my time, and almost sent me over the edge. Remember that cake decorating class I talked about back in February and March? I had to make a tiered cake for the course I'm in now. So please, so that I don't feel like I wasted almost 3 whole days of my life, take a gander. I need to feel that my time was not spent in vain. 
The top tier is a vegan mango cake, the bottom tier is a vegan lime cake. Both tiers were filled with that mango jam I mentioned, and covered in vegan lime buttercream, then a homemade marshmallow fondant (which was not vegan; I need to research vegan cake decorating). The leaves are made out of fondant. 
It's not quite how I imagined it. There were supposed to be far less leaves, and they were supposed to be concentrated on one side of the cake, cascading down. But it was hot in my apartment, and I had some problems with too-thin buttercream, and covering the bottom tier, and the fondant tore off in big chunks on the sides. So I used the fondant leaves to cover all the holes and imperfections. The pictures make it look much nicer than it does in person. But I'm glad I finally finished it.
I swear, once I pull it together, you'll hear more about Vegan Treats and the like. Until then, I've got a pint of Coconut Sorbet and a bottle of rum with my name on it. Toodles!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Few of my Favorite Things

Lately, there's a few things I just can't seem to get enough of:

1. Coconut Sorbet 
Seriously guys, if you're not already on this train, you need to get on it immediately. I've tried a couple different brands: Sharon's Sorbet and Ciao Bella and they're both equally snack-tastic. Coconut sorbet is sweet, creamy and coco-nutty, but without any dairy. Totally vegan-friendly. And once it actually feels more like spring/summer, TOTALLY refreshing. Feel free to mix it into summer cocktails, and report back here with your findings. 

2. Soy Chorizo
I found this gem at Trader Joe's, and bought it before I knew what I'd do with it. Upon a friend's suggestion, we used it for breakfast burritos. (Sorry no pics! We were too hungry!) Ken crumbled the chorizo with some frozen, sliced peppers and scrambled in an egg, then wrapped it all up in a flour tortilla topped with salsa and some tofutti sour cream, and fried spicy potatoes on the side. NOM NOM NOM. (To keep it vegan, just leave the egg out. It'll still be tasty!) On a related note, Maggie, I'd like to hire you to be my snack advisor again pleaseandthankyou. 

3. Bananas
I'm serious.

4. Animal Shaped Sandwiches
You know you're jealous.

5. Asian Supermarkets
As far as I can tell, South Philadelphia has a larger Asian population than Chinatown. There's some areas down here (specifically on Washington, and some other spots closer to Oregon), that feel like little Saigon/Hanoi/Phnom Penh. Know what that means? Lots of Asian markets. They're the best. Cheap produce, cheap tofu, strange smells, more tea than you can shake a stick at, and Japanese Candy. Like Yan Yan. Which has become my favorite thing on the planet this month. Cardboard Crispy cracker stick with some kind of chocolate cream dip. Like Dunkaroos. But better. Much Better.
These things aren't vegan. They're not particularly tasty. So why do I love them so? For the "fun lines" of course! 
Any teachers out there? You might want to pick these up as an educational aid. Especially for that mole-in-a-hole lesson you had planned. 
I think they may have been watching Arrested Development when they made the chicken one. Seriously though, my favorite is probably: STAG BEETLE- LOVE IT. Is it a declaration or a command? My hope is that someone out there is really passionate that the stag beetle needs some love too, and finally found their platform. That's the explanation that helps me sleep at night. 
The moral of the story is: next time you're in need of a snack and some entertainment, head to your nearest neighborhood Asian market. You won't be disappointed. Pinky swear. 

That's what I'm obsessed with this week. What's on your list?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day at the Zoo Brownies

If you follow along at home, you'll know that there were Brownie giveaways galore this week. I donated some brownies for ZWR's Great Brownie Scholarship, and then decided I'd give away ANIMAL SHAPED brownies to 2 of you lucky readers. (As you'll see from the pictures below, animal shaped brownies are a great idea, but difficult to execute on brownies with a crunchy/flaky top. Hopefully what they lack in looks they make up for in DELICIOUSNESS.)
ZWR announced his winner yesterday, and today I sent out some appropriately themed brownies for the lucky winner, and a seperate 'thank you' package for some donkey that runs the show over there. Hope you guys enjoy your Blanton BUTTERED brownies. (The weird blobby thing is supposed to be a Penguin wearing a hat. I noes, right? A for effort.)
I bet you're wondering if you won the FREE ANIMAL BROWNIE contest over here. 

The lucky winners are: Brianne from Iron Chef Mommy and The nosh guy from Food Rulez. I used to pick the winners, but I'm not computer savvy enough to know how to do a screen capture on my Mac. (It makes me feel really old when I can't figure out how to do things on my computer... :::sigh:::). So you'll just have to believe me. 
Since the nosh guy lives in Philly, I dropped off his doggy brownie tonight. He just might post about it on his site later, so check it out!
Brie, yours is in the mail. I made a seahorse shaped one for your little lady. Hopefully it still looks like a seahorse when you get it!
I'll be talking more about brownies in the near future. Pinky Swear. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest! Keep checking back, as I hope to have more soon!

Monday, May 10, 2010

And YOU get a Brownie! And YOU get a Brownie!

Guys. Serious news here. Know how the other day I mentioned the contest I'm doing with the greatest website about wanting to go to the zoo with Roy Halladay? Tomorrow's the last day to get your entry in. But I know not all of you are Phillies fans, or MS Paint Picassos. And I decided that it was really unfair to leave you guys out. (And I'm going to be going to the post office this week anyways, so it's no extra work for me.) 

So I'm going to be giving away a brownie each to 2 of you lucky readers. (2?! Better Odds?! Zoinks!)

And not just any brownies. Animal shaped brownies. 

I just got my hands on a MEGA BUCKET of animal cookie cutters. There's 50 of them in there. Including an Octopus. An OCTOPUS, people. And a squirrel. My mind is spinning with all of the ridiculous snacks I'll be making with these. I plan on making cookies, and cutting brownies, and I'll probably use them to make silly shaped sandwiches. I might start making lunch for Ken just so I can make him dinosaur shaped sandwiches that all the doods at work will envy. For realsies. 

But as for you, all you have to do is leave a comment telling me your favorite animal, and whether or not you're vegan. (I'm making both vegan and non-vegan brownies this week, so I'll need to know which to send you.) THAT'S IT. Simple, right? This contest will have a quick turnaround too. I'll be closing entries at the end of the day on this Wednesday May 12, 2010 and posting the winner and shipping the next day. Tell your friends!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The One Where I Wish My Mom a Happy Mother's Day

My mom and I, circa 1983
I couldn't get home to Scranton this weekend, so I'm gonna use this space to wish my mom and grandma a Happy Mother's Day (even though they're not exactly social media mavens, and will probably never see this)!

Like most of the world, the older I get, the more I appreciate everything Mom and Grandma did for me. They're kinda awesome.
Mom, pregnant with me and ready to pop, 1982

Mom, thanks for always helping me move. And for getting me those Reebok Pumps back in 4th grade, even though they were really expensive, and you were a single mom. And for paying for all those dance lessons. And for all those late-night calls from work to sing "I just called to say I love you," and tell me goodnight. And for showing me how to take care of myself, and be independent, and balance a checkbook. And for dealing with me as a bratty kid, and an even moodier teenager (SHEESH... sorry about all that!). And, ya know, for popping me out in the first place. THANKS. Love you!

My Grandmother and Grandfather

My Grandmother holding my mother

Grandma, for all the time you spent raising me, and brushing my hair and wiping my butt and getting me dressed, you're really like a second mom. Thanks for letting me dust the nut log cookies with powdered sugar (I loved that sifter!). And thanks for instilling a love of baking in me, even though it didn't manifest until years later. And for all the hugs and kisses. And for encouraging my dancing and singing. And for waking me up with silly songs. And for making up silly songs on the spot for any random thing you were doing. And for reading to me, and making up stories to put me to sleep. And for giving me a love of old movie musicals and Patsy Cline. And for putting up with me as a bratty kid, and moody teenager. (Seriously, HOW did you guys put up with me? SORRY!) And for all the other ways you've taken care of me in the last 27 years, THANKS. I love you lots!
Grandma D, Great Grandma B, Me
Grandma B and Me. 

And Great-Grandma B, I miss you every day. You were the sweetest, most loving Grandma any little girl could ask for. Thanks for all the cake. And all the unconditional love. And for all those $20s you slipped me when Grandpa B wasn't looking that helped me eat in college. I hope I make you proud.

And to all the other baby's mommas and baby's mommas mommas out there, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Have you heard about ZWR?

So, around these parts you might have heard me talk about an awesome site called "I want to go to the zoo with Roy Halladay." It's pretty much the greatest way to waste time since the internet was invented if you're a Phillies fan. Or if you don't care about baseball but love animals, MS Paint and silliness.  If you haven't checked it out yet, head over there immediately. Click on some ads and buy a t-shirt while you're at it. (His t-shirts are the bestest). 

If you follow ZWR's blog, then you'll know that I was recently named 'the official bakery of ZWR.' Pretty awesome stuff. It's cuz I'm donating some brownies to a contest he's having. If you've got some graphic skills, some very awesome custom brownies could be yours! Head over and check it out

And if you needed more reason, there's stuff like this over there:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Official Philadelphia Picnicing Club

Ok, kids. There's lots to talk about today. This past week was quite a week, filled with all kinds of crappiness, culminating in me almost burning the house down on Saturday while trying to make popcorn on the stove. 
Grease fires are pretty scary. Thankfully, we have an extinguisher. Did you know that the stuff inside a fire extinguisher gets EVERYWHERE? I've been cleaning for 2 days now, and the chemical is still all over the place. It got all over everything in my kitchen, and managed to travel down the hallway and coat some of the things in my living room too. SHEESH! 
But a couple of things made this weekend bearable. One, it was summertime-beautiful in Philly (and hit 90 degrees, YOWZA!). Two, after a crushing loss on Friday, the Phillies came back to win the series versus the Mets, stomp on their souls, and take first place back in the division. And three, the inaugural meeting of the Philadelphia Picnicing Club took place Sunday afternoon. We need to talk about this.
A few days ago a friend of mine got the great idea to start a Picnicing Club. It's a pretty simple idea. Everyone brings a blanket and a snack to share, we pick a spot at one of the many parks in Philadelphia, and we have a picnic! 
For the first meeting, we chose the park next to Old Swedes Church at Delaware and Christian St. This spot turned out to be the perfect location. Despite the 90 degree temps, the tree-filled park was shaded, breezy and kept us nice and cool while we snacked. 
The founding members of the club were all in attendance: Bonnie*, the mastermind; Princess Nutella Kitten*, the treasurer; me, Drew*, the secretary; Lola*, vice president of foreign relations and Lola's dog Stella, who quickly became our club mascot. 
*In a fit of silliness today I decided to refer to all current members of the Picnicing Club by super-secret codenames. Also, all officer titles were just made up by me right now, and have no validity.*
Things started a bit rocky. I was about an hour late due to the aforementioned kitchen disaster that had me cleaning most of the morning. It also meant I had none of the cookies I planned to make. I grabbed some broccoli slaw that I made pre-disaster, some utensils and some cups and was on my way. It was a good thing I brought some forks, because no one else had and they were digging Nutella out of the jar with hunks of bread when I arrived. (Though who am I to judge? Desperate times call for desperate measures...) 
We also had a bottle of Prosecco for mimosas, but no bottle opener. Bonnie's huz Clyde* showed up and tried several methods to get the cap off: a lighter, a key, a brick, but all he got out of the deal was a bloody finger. We even asked a passing stranger, but to no luck. Eventually Bonnie caved and ran home to get an opener. And with all that anticipation, they were obviously the BEST mimosas we'd ever tasted. 
The spread was pretty delicious too. There was some uber-garlic white bean dip, a corn and edamame salad, carrot and ginger dressing, California dates, Mediterranean-style wraps (some with turkey, and others without), and of course, Nutella, bread, and strawberries. 
There was also a princess bouncy castle set up. Unfortunately, none of us took advantage of it before the kid's birthday party started. Totally dropped the ball on that one.  
We had some other friends stop by briefly to snack. Hopefully next time, they'll become official members of the club. They have the perfect picnicing blanket that we all envied. 
All in all, the first official meeting of the Philadelphia Picnicing Club was a rousing success. We're already planning our next outing, and doing official things like making lists and gathering basic supplies (bottle opener, TOP OF THE LIST). 
We're currently accepting new members. To join you need to: 
  1. Like food
  2. Like booze
  3. Like eating food and drinking booze outside on a blanket
  4. Be in or able to travel to, Philadelphia PA
Seriously though, if you're interested in joining us next time (and who wouldn't?!), leave a comment or drop an e-mail to sweetswallowsbaking (at) gmail (dot) com. We'll add you to the list.